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Compost bins

How we test tumbling compost bins

By Janice Shipp

Article 9 of 10

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How we test tumbling compost bins

A decent tumbling compost bin should be easy to fill and empty, light work to turn round and produce great compost.

Our thorough testing reveals which tumbling compost bins really are a pleasure to use and which will leave you with backache and unrotted waste.

Discover our Best Buy tumbling compost bins.

We assembled the tumbling compost bins against the clock, noting any difficulties we experienced. Each was filled to two-thirds capacity, leaving space for the waste to move around when tumbled. We used a 50:50 mixture of shredded prunings and soft, sappy material (grass clippings, vegetable waste and weeds). The bins were tumbled three times a week and the contents watered as necessary to keep the compost moist.

How easy are tumbling compost bins to use?

Three ergonomists (experts in how design influences ease of use) assessed how easy each tumbling compost bin was to tumble, noting any risk of injury. We rated how easy each was to fill and empty, too.

Do tumbling compost bins produce decent compost?

We also tested a conventional compost bin as a comparison. We used two of them: one was forked over weekly and the other left unturned.

Compost quality was assessed after five, seven, 10 and 14 weeks. All the bins we turned, including the forked-over conventional one, produced compost suitable for using as a mulch within five weeks, and well-rotted compost within 14 weeks. The conventional bin we didn't fork over, however, took 26 weeks (six months) to produce usable compost, so there is a clear benefit in turning it if you're in a hurry.

Our scores are based on ease of use (50%) and quality of compost (50%).

Is it worth buying a tumbling compost bin?

To make usable compost as quickly as possible, stick to a conventional compost bin and turn its contents once a week. Filled in one go and turned weekly, our conventional compost bin produced well-rotted compost in 10 weeks. Turning most of the tumbling compost bins was less effort, but also less effective: all took about a month longer to produce well-rotted compost. They're pricey, too, in comparison with conventional compost bins.